Bishop Sarah’s Pastoral Letter - January 2019
Signs and worshippers
When children go back to school and work places re-open after the celebrations of Christmas and New Year we are often keen to sort out the Christmas decorations, to clean the house and get on with the next chapter of life.
The Church calendar invites us to take the opportunity to catch our breath at the beginning of a new year, to rest in God’s presence and continue to wonder at the gift of God’s own son to the world.
The Feast of the Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6th, particularly focusses our attention on one aspect of the story of Jesus’ birth - the visit of ‘wise men from the east’, the ‘three kings’ or ‘astrologers’ who were led by a star. In the ancient Near East people spoke of a star brightening in the sky when someone was born and dimming again when they died. There were many stories of activity in the heavens associated with the birth of great rulers and kings. This star reminds us that Jesus’ birth is an event of truly cosmic significance.
The wise men came to worship and to bring offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh - gifts often given to honour a king or a god in the ancient world. The Bible tells us that when they saw Jesus ‘...they bowed down and worshipped him.’ They hadn’t worshipped at the feet of King Herod when they had visited him, but they understand that now they are on holy ground - here is the kingdom of heaven, revealed to them in a child.
‘“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”’ (John 3:16)
Jesus, God’s greatest expression of love for the world. God shows us the way of love through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus and we are called to follow in this way of love. So, how do we do this in our life day by day, in our world where there seems to be so much to challenge us and to lead us into behaviour that is not loving?
We are called to make a commitment to live in the most loving way possible, to always have at the forefront of our mind how we can support and care for others and enable them to flourish. We are called to live in a way that puts the wellbeing of others before our own. This is not a wishy washy kind of love, it is a challenging, radical way of life, but by living the way of love we can transform our relationships, our communities and our world.
It might have been just someone else’s story,
Some chosen people get a special king.
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In temples they found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.Epiphany: Malcolm Guite
Bishop of Shrewsbury